A recent article by Steve Cohen from the Earth Institute at Columbia University elaborates on the benefits of preferring electric cars to cars powered by internal combustion engines. Cohen acknowledges that “Decarbonization will take decades, and … some of the opposition will be justified because these installations will have a negative impact on a community.” Nevertheless, he insists, “The argument that electric vehicles pollute too much is not persuasive. They pollute less than vehicles powered by the internal combustion engine,” and “that is the only comparison that matters.”
In my opinion, we are looking at the whole situation backwards. Even Cohen, an avid supporter of electric vehicles, admits that “We will see progress as we make the problem less bad, but we will not solve the problem.” So, instead of searching for ways to minimize the damage while maintaining our harmful lifestyle, I think we should change our way of life so that we don’t create the problem in the first place.
The current Western lifestyle encourages working many hours with often long drives to and from work. In recent years, things have begun to change, but I think we shouldn’t wait, we must shift to working from home as soon as possible and make this form of work as pervasive as we can.
In Asia, where long workdays and a long workweek were regarded as the norm until recently, there are already winds of change. “Panasonic Corp has joined a small, but growing, number of Japanese companies to offer staff a four-day workweek to encourage better work-life balance,” writes the media company HRM Asia. Panasonic is not alone; it is “part of a global trend,” the article continues, adding that in Japan, “a group of lawmakers is discussing a proposal to grant employees a day off in addition to the two break days a week, to ensure their well-being.”
Forbes magazine, too, writes that “the four-day workweek is gaining big momentum,” and other media outlets have been writing more and more about it.
In my opinion, we should go beyond the four-day workweek. I think that even the work we do should be done primarily from home. It will create less congestion on the roads, give people more free time, and flexible hours even on the days when they do work, and it will drastically reduce the environmental impact of the auto industry, whether it is powered by electric or internal combustion engines.
The automotive industry is only one example. In almost every area of human engagement, we are busying ourselves more than we should, and everyone is paying the price: we, our families, the society, and the planet. Excessive production and excessive work help no one and do not make us happier.
Think about how we would feel if we had two more hours of free time each day—roughly the time we spend commuting to work and back. Now imagine if we worked only four days a week, and from home.
In short, I think we should slow down, dedicate more time for the things we love to do and for the people we care about. It will make us happy; it will make society more peaceful; it will help the environment; and it will help the world. In these troubled times, we could all use some peace of mind.